Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Petition the Whitehouse to remove Carmen Ortiz from office (whitehouse.gov)
801 points by olefoo on Jan 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 234 comments

Some more context about the prosecutor:

She was named "Bostonian of the Year" for her successful cases against mob bosses and drug companies: http://www.mainjustice.com/2012/01/03/massachusetts-u-s-atto...

Out of the 94 U.S. DA offices, her office alone collected ~67% of the total criminal and civil fines in 2012, mostly owing to the successful prosecution of drug companies. Her success led to speculation that she would run for higher office: http://www.mainjustice.com/2013/01/07/mass-u-s-attorney-carm...

She is no stranger to being part of a disenfranchised group, as she was the first Hispanic and first woman to hold the position of U.S. attorney in Boston. Her first internship was with the DOJ's public integrity unit, created after Watergate: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011...

She's not of the "evil prosecutor" mold as is commonly thought and her background, particularly her history of fighting white-collar crime and corporations, doesn't strike me as someone who is intent on screwing the little guy over. That said, the seemingly-excessive charges could stem from a result of misconception and, let's face it, technological ignorance (hacking sounds bad, period). But in solving the overall problem in the justice system, let's not attribute to malice what can be attributed to other issues just yet.

-- One edit: a link to a piece by Aaron on yelling at the machine, rather than the person: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/nummi

My intent is not to say that the petition is wrong, but to argue that if people are going to call for action, call it for the right and productive reasons, rather than simplifying cause and effect to just one main person (even if the buck technically stops with her).

Honestly I don't care if she spends her nights and weekends caring for orphans and war widows. She's a politician who treated Aaron Swartz as a pawn in the political game she is playing.

No doubt she intended for her campaign for governor to describe her as a "staunch defender of intellectual property rights" who, as prosecutor, put a "dangerous hacker behind bars" for "breaking into MIT and stealing millions of dollars of federally funded research."

The Obama administration has thrown better people than her out the airlock because they became political liabilities. We need to add a new rule to the political rulebook that she's playing by. Ending her career is necessary to send a lesson to every other prosecutor who sees a guy like Aaron the way a housecat sees a cornered rat.

I had the misfortune of having a wannabe-politician as prosecutor going after me. She didn't care that I was a first time offender, and she could care less about the destruction to my profession and my ability to support my family. I was lucky enough to have a judge who had the sense to realize what was going on, and a lawyer who, due to the simplicity of the case, didn't bankrupt me. I'll never forget looking into the prosecutors eyes as she treated me like anything but a human being, and tried to needlessly destroy my life. Had she succeeded in her stated goals, I would have lost my job at a time when I couldn't possibly afford to. My consequences for my infant son and stay-at-home wife gave her zero pause, but thankfully the judge saw me as a human being, and was intelligent enough to conduct an instant cost/benefit analysis for society in her head.

I seriously doubt that any of this is unique to a few prosecutors. At the end of the day, their incentives are not for the social good. Individually, they want a flawless record as a victor, costs to their victims be damned.

I'll second this, if you stand accused of a political crime just watch out. They will stop at nothing to convict you, and redouble their efforts once they find out they've been duped into prosecuting you to support someone's agenda.

She was exceptionally pissed to have to agree to stay the charges.

What was your crime?

I think you're missing the point vis a vis "fix the machine, not the person".

The tactics described in the petition are ingrained in the US justice system. Getting rid of a single prosecutor isn't going to change a damn thing because the injustices are systemic, not the product of a vindictive individual.

Like Aaron said, shouting at the gears isn't going to fix the machine.

I have to disagree, when people realize the risk is personal they'll take care to make sure what they're doing is right. Just following orders is never a valid excuse. Of course we should stop with the prosecutor we should continue on to try and fix the machine, but at the very least if prosecutors know they're responsible for their actions it'll add an additional check to the system.

I think you meant -> "we SHOULDN'T" stop with the prosecutor.

Stephen P. Heymann, AUSA, too.

Asst US Attorney Stephen P Heymann (US vs. Swartz) DOX http://pastebin.com/DUgS0QTw

It's been taken down by Pastebin, evidently Pastebin likes protecting assholes, here's another, but I only grabbed part of it before it went down: http://pastebin.com/WvY5RnjV

yep, my mistake.

Like Aaron said, shouting at the gears isn't going to fix the machine.

But excising the broken, unfit, insidiously malicious gear from the machine will make said machine one gear short of harming the innocent-until-proven-guilty.

broken, unfit, insidiously malicious gear

Ortiz comes across to me as a better than average human being who did something evil because she seems to have been morally confused about something. I don't think Ortiz is, say, as bad as Kissinger.

Maybe the evil justifies the revenge of removing Ortiz. But this petition striking me as an exercise in nastiness. Wouldn't an official, public reprimand be better?

There are ten thousand gears coming out of law school every year. It won't make a difference.

It won't make a difference.

If engineers started getting sacked for breaking the build, you can be damned sure people would get very scrupulous about only committing working code, whether they're fresh out of school or greybeards.

No, it's not a perfect analogy, but I don't think it needs to be.

If you did it every time, sure. That's called changing the system. Sacking one engineer for breaking one build and then going back to encouraging all the other engineers for making as many commits as possible, and giving raises and promotions to engineers who make the most commits, while sweeping all the other broken builds under the rug, would just be scapegoating.

Just like this is, actually.

Just like this is, actually.

No, so not like this, actually.

How many software engineers or their professional peers have been nudged, pushed or shoved into committing suicide because of a broken build? No, really?

When a person in position of authority is maliciously responsible for driving people to the brink of suicide and then some, they need to be held to a higher standard because of the very position they hold.

This episode is not an excuse for a witch-hunt of those in power, but the people who precipitated this episode need to be excised from their position precisely because of the irresponsible witch-hunt they carried out.

> How many software engineers or their professional peers have been nudged, pushed or shoved into committing suicide because of a broken build?

It wasn't my shitty analogy to begin with. You're missing the point: getting one prosecutor fired won't change anything, because everyone above and below that prosecutor will continue operating the exact same way.

getting one prosecutor fired won't change anything

Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But de-throning that one prosecutor will, in her own words, serve as a message [0] to others of her kind that reckless, power-drunk actions have real-world repercussions.

[0] http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/news/2011/December/EremianVer...

> "But de-throning that one prosecutor will, in her own words, serve as a message"

No, it won't. People respond to risks and rewards, and we've shown amply over the years that the severity of punishment has little deterrent effect on future offenses if the odds of getting caught aren't high enough.

In other words, by throwing one prosecutor to the wolves, we have no inspired any behavioral change in other prosecutors, because we've shown that once every few decades we will punish one person - and that's stacked against the systemic pressures they face to prosecute as many people as vigorously as possible, every day.

This is the same reason why the death sentence, as severe as it is, has basically no effect on crime rates, because it's not handed out with enough regularity to be a deterrent (whether or not we should have the death sentence is another story altogether).

To achieve the "message sending" you want, we will have to regularly investigate many prosecutors, such that the odds of escaping their reckless prosecutorial actions are low. This is what most other people call "changing the system" ;)

Outlier one-offs is just compounding tragedy upon tragedy.

The federal government is more or less designed to function by sacrificing pawns over these kinds of controversies without ever addressing the policies, cultures, or root causes that led to those controversies in the first place. And this goes all the way up to the cabinet level. Sacking one federal prosecutor will do nothing. Even sacking Eric Holder wouldn't change anything--I can't remember a single attorney general who was worth a damn and the first one I remember is Janet Reno.

getting one prosecutor fired won't change anything, changing the system will. However, firing the prosecutor will be a start in changing the system.

one at a time....

It is important to note; we don't and should not punish citizens, civilian or government employed, for being vindictive. We punish/rehabilitate them so that they won't hurt another human again. Unfortunately the courtroom can be a vicious, painful environment--aggressive behavior is awarded there. I think many parties are to blame--a public Government apology of any kind and promises to do better would at least be a place to start. You can't break a few eggs when they are so valuable. And how can they not realize how sad this is? It makes me feel sick.

Perhaps not, but we should remove vindictive individuals who are charged with meting out justice. Ortiz is one of those individuals. And we do this so they can do no more harm.

Sacking one won't do it, no. But getting one sacked is a necessary step to getting them all sacked. You do it this time. Then you do it again. And again. Until they get the message.

These prosecutors routinely single out individuals for harsh treatment to "send a message". Turnabout is fair play.

"Getting rid of a single prosecutor isn't going to change a damn thing"

Pour encourager les autres.

She should be disbarred.

My guess is she is just as vituperative and mean to people who work in in her office. She has done far more harm to this country in her mistreatment of Aaron Swartz than she can ever atone for.

I think you are missing the point! The machine is persons'!!!

Yeah, the result of ending her career is both to punish her, and to establish a precedent so all future US Attorneys are appropriately concerned that if they commit egregious violations of the public trust and their oath of office, even if technically in compliance with the law, public outcry will lead to their dismissal and a career working in food service.

treated Aaron Swartz as a pawn in the political game she is playing

Well, maybe. It's also entirely possible that she was just doing her job, and didn't totally understand the technical aspects of what Swartz was accused of doing.

> she was just doing her job

> didn't totally understand the technical aspects of what Swartz was accused of doing

These are quite entirely contradictory. How can you charge someone for a so-called crime you do not even understand?

This hits the nail on the head. If the government can form legislation in a domain, and have the power to prosecute in a domain it should completely understand said domain. Ignorance on many levels is the reason for much of the discontent and injustice occurring where government and internet coalesce.

> and didn't totally understand the technical aspects of what Swartz was accused of doing.

She had the resources to hire the types of experts who are what I call "executive whisperers." She doesn't need to know what a perl script is to understand what happened at JSTOR.

On top of it, when the "victim" JSTOR is saying "what the hell, why are you prosecuting this guy?" Then its pretty obvious we're looking at political motivations here. Sorry, but you have way too much faith in people if you think what just happened was one big 'honest mistake.'

She is still responsible. There is a chain of command and she is the one getting the pats on the back if a lot of prosecutions go through and crime goes down in the country, but that means she also gets to respond for fuck ups.

Very entirely possible. However I have a hard time believing that someone smart enought to make it through law school and pass the bar is not be able to learn enough about technology and motivations behind the actions in this case.

As a tax payer I don't want a prosecutor who doesn't know who to go after or how far to go. From reading the thread(s) here and loosely following the case in the news I am not convinced that the money spent to prosecute this case was the best possible use of my tax dollars.

"However I have a hard time believing that someone smart enought to make it through law school and pass the bar is not be able to learn enough about technology and motivations behind the actions in this case."

Much of law is a very technologically backwards field. Up until recently, some law schools (and not backwater ones, but major top-tier ones) only accepted hard-copy, type-written (as in, on a physical typewriter) applications. Harvard's student library had several typewriters specifically for this purpose.

That does not mean that someone who goes to a law school like Harvard's is not smart enough to learn about the high level concepts driving things things outside legal education. This is especially true for someone who goes through said school and strives to become a prosecutor with political ambitions. For if they attain high level success as a prosecutor and in the political arena yet they cannot understand the fundamental difference between malicious intent and a prank rooted in activism then they are a scary person to be in a position of power. They will be making and implementing policy decisions with arbitrary and personal bias not hard facts.

Someone in a position of power is not strong unless they know when to apply the full amount of power entrusted to them and when to practice restraint; when and how to apply less so that the level of punishment is commiserate with the crime being prosecuted. It is bad for our society to give give someone a pass when they over prosecute a crime in both the short term and the long term.

Which schools and how recently?

Prosecuting someone without understanding the crime in question is not "doing your job".

The majority of people are not doing their jobs if your definitions are that strict. Sad but true.

Whether or not she totally understood the situation, she's just as liable. Either way, she'd be doing a horrible thing. You don't wield such power so haphazardly or harshly and still be a good person.

I agree that she's just as responsible, but I'm not ready to assume malice yet.

"We need to add a new rule to the political rulebook that she's playing by. Ending her career is necessary to send a lesson to every other prosecutor who sees a guy like Aaron the way a housecat sees a cornered rat."

Yes it's vitally important that there be a completely different and much weaker standard of justice applied to wealthy software developers then those other people.

"Ending her career is necessary to send a lesson to every other prosecutor"

Messaging that violating proportionality in such crimes is electorally unacceptable is necessary. Villainising a messenger of the law is not.

I do not doubt that Mme Ortiz believes, or at least believed, that what she did is right. Her sense of morality was reinforced by her institutional context and is not unique for a prosecutor. She simply failed to recognise when she stepped outside the bounds where her values are recognised - this is not all that dissimilar from Aaron Swartz. As she should have done in his case, if we intend to use her to send a message, there is no need to do so with such zeal.

I am highly conflicted about signing this petition. The call for bloodletting should never ring so clearly.

I signed, and posted on Facebook the following reason to do so: "Go sign this, if you haven't already. The description fits a lot of prosecutors, but this seems as good a place as any to start cleaning up." The job of a prosecutor is to prosecute, and if they aren't careful, they fall victim to the Iron Law of Bureaucracy (http://www.google.com/search?q=Iron+Law+of+Bureaucracy). Max Weber (1864–1920), a believer in the efficiency of bureaucracies, would also have a agreed with Pournelle; Wikipedia phrases it thusly: "Weber also saw it as a threat to individual freedoms, and the ongoing bureaucratization as leading to a "polar night of icy darkness", in which increasing rationalization of human life traps individuals in the aforementioned "iron cage" of bureaucratic, rule-based, rational control. In order to counteract bureaucrats, the system needs entrepreneurs and politicians." That's what this petition is all about. It's a warning to the politicians that the prosecutorial bureaucracy has gone too far.

As the author of the petition, the most I hope for is that it reaches the threshold to deserve a response. I do not expect Ms. Ortiz to lose her position, although I clearly do think that such an outcome would be salutary for the legal profession as a whole and the current DOJ in particular.

However, even if that came to pass, she would still be a top flight lawyer with a broad set of connections; at worst she would move on to another position.

You say that "She simply failed to recognise when she stepped outside the bounds where her values are recognised - this is not all that dissimilar from Aaron Swartz." The difference, of course, is that Aaron Swartz merely published documents, she was trying to send him to prison for almost the rest of his natural life.

I sure hope you can see the proportional difference between the two acts!

She can probably kiss her governor ambitions goodbye now. The internet will destroy her campaign even before it begins.

The same internet that propelled Howard Dean and Ron Paul into the oval office?

Why is federally funded research not in the public domain?

My Grandfather, who was the US Attorney for west Memphis, once explained that prosecuting the law was messy. It was messy because there was rarely a case which hinged on exactly one part of the law or that had circumstances that nicely isolated the principle at stake. He was talking about pornography, and the difficulty of a general consensus that pornography was "bad" and should be outlawed, with the challenge of defining exactly what it was and the actual "bad" part of it.

I see a lot of parallels between his struggle to enforce pornography laws with the current struggle to enforce copyright laws. These situations seem to arise when there is a fundamental disconnect between what "the people" think and what "the system" thinks. "The system" is represented by a codified set of strictures that are put in place by a variety of people representing what they assert are the best interests of "the people." Whereas the people themselves, act in what they consider a rational way given their understanding of or perhaps agreement to, the laws of the land. Finally our system of laws are a combination of written text, and argued cases, and the sum of those is an emergent thing thought of as public policy. When the rational acting people don't consent to the public policy, there is a rash of disobedience, and whether it is alcohol, porn, or copyright, the process of emerging to a consensus is challenging at best.

One possible explanation for the zeal in which this case was pursued may be the lack of confounding factors with respect to copyright infringement, as codified by law. I don't know of course so this is just speculation. Having a clear, published, decision on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of what Aaron was doing might have been seen as a way to clear up a confusing pile of statutes and other decisions. An unambiguous marker between fair use and infringement, or perhaps a litmus test for intent. We'll probably never know.

Ending her career would set a very clear precedent that other prosecutors would have no difficulty understanding. N'est pas?

Sure, but I don't know if it would move the copyright reform question along. Copyright is very broken in a number of ways but there is broad consensus in people I've talked to that it is especially broken with regards to public records and science research. In the best of all possible worlds Aaron would have been acquitted with a landmark decision that said "this use of copyright in rent seeking behavior on documents of public discourse is unconstitutional."[1] Aaron was doing perhaps more than he knew to push this conversation along, had I known he was in such dire straits in his defense fund I would have helped in any way I could have. Clearly others would as well.

If you look at Carmen's career you will find that she has actually done a lot of good, in getting bad folks put behind bars. She, or her staff, blew it on this one. I wish I knew why. I doubt we'll get the actual story there.

So to what end would ending her career advance Aaron's goal of getting copyright on public records overturned? Making people "afraid" to prosecute it is the wrong answer, making it "not a crime" is the answer. There are only two ways to do that, one is to repeal the statute that makes it a crime in the first place, the second is to litigate the statute and find that the statute is invalid.

Firing Carmen doesn't help, although I completely understand the emotional appeal of doing so.

[1] I know that would not have happened it is illustrative.

All the good she's done doesn't matter, because when you're a prosecutor, all it takes is one mistake and you've could have blood on your hands. Firing her would send a message to other prosecutors that mistakes will not be tolerated.

Which is a useless message to send. People make mistakes. Period. A system which is not robust to people making mistakes is disastrously broken.

Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

If you get drunk, hop in your car, and accidentally kill some people, then guess what? It doesn't matter if it was an accident. If your "accident" is big enough, it becomes indistinguishable from malice and you get held accountable.

And yet, even given DUI laws of varying (arguably insufficient) harshness people still drive drunk. 20 years from now or so, when self-driving cars are the norm, DUI will thankfully be a relic of the past, and many lives will be saved.

Change the system.

Getting a prosecutor fired is orders of magnitude easier than meaningfully changing the system.

People make mistakes. Responsible people take responsibility for their mistakes.

And people are expected to pay when they make mistakes. Period.

I severely disagree with this, and find it one of the most destructive mentalities persistent in society.

I have a good friend whose father was abusive, and a perfectionist. My friend, as a consequence, holds everyone to an impossible standard - most of all herself - and it's sad to watch, especially given that she's one of the most brilliant, passionate, hard-working people I know. When you expect and demand perfection from people, you will only be let down.

I believe people are well intentioned, but fallible, and demanding retribution for every failing is just a pretty crappy way to go through life. I am very willing to forgive, and only hope that, in my life, others will forgive me when I don't do right (and I'm under no illusions that I always do the right thing)

Say, someone accidentally runs one of your family members over. Would you be satisfied with a "Oops, my bad"?

If it is an accident, exactly what purpose would punishing them serve?

If it was due to negligence, then there is the issue of to what extent it has a preventative effect.

I'm Norwegian. One of the aspects of the Norwegian legal systems is short prison sentences. The legal maximum sentence is 21 years with a recent modification that allows for extensions (this must be included in the conviction, and is restricted to particularly severe crimes) if the prisoner is considered to still be a risk to society. On top of this, a prisoner is usually let out after 2/3 is served, assuming good behaviour, and will get time limited parole even before that (such as weekends with their family).

So a few months ago, for example, a major newspaper published an interview with a woman convicted of a double murder a decade or so ago, carried out at a cafe while she was out of prison for the day on one of her first parole days. In this case still accompanied by a police officer.

And you know what? I'm happy about that, because we also have one of the lowest re-offending rates.

Vengeance is not a good basis for a legal system.

And if what you want is to minimize harm to the public (and that includes those you put in prison, before someone gets the bright idea that lifetime confinement is a solution), punishment simply doesn't work very well.

"punishment simply doesn't work very well."


This isn't like like murder or robbery, where the criminal can more or less reoffend at will. You can't prosecute unless you are an official, government-recognized prosecutor. If she is removed from her job, she won't be able to prosecute anyone ever again.

That will work just fine.

Consider this allegory as a way to recontextualize the question.

Let's say that you have a software project, and one of the engineers on the project is fixing bugs. His bug fixes generally fix the bug but often are found to have performance impacts, or later when another problem is found his bug fixes require complex refactoring.

This person is doing their job, day in and day out. Will firing them make your system any better? No, it won't.

This is a management problem, the manager talks to this guy and sets guidelines and standards for his bug fixes, the manager creates policies around how bug fixes are evaluated and the way in which engineers are evaluated that fix them. And then if this engineer can't do the job, as the manager needs it done, then you let them go because you really need a better engineer in that slot.

Its always the manager's fault if someone is let go for just doing their job. If how they did it is an issue, the manager should fix it, and if they are incapable of fixing it then you let go the manager and replace them.

Now, let's say that his "bug fixes" actually result in someone's death, and that his definition of "doing his job" consists of working obsessively on trivial matters while ignoring more serious ones, and that his entire motivation appears to be to get his name in the papers rather than actually solving problems.

Ortiz IS the manager in this situation, by the way.

Better than just paying for mistakes is learning to prevent them the next time. If every major mistake anyone made was accompanied by an impartial failure analysis instead of finger pointing and scapegoating, society would advance much more quickly.

Maybe you should suggest that to the prosecutor.

People make mistakes. Prosecutors who make mistakes ruin the lives of innocent people. If you ruin the life of an innocent person, then you're part of that broken system.

Just remember this: this is a Prosecutor who went after Aaron Swartz, even though the alleged victim didn't want to press any charges and had dealt with the matter outside of the court system, in a way that was satisfactory to both parties (Swatz and JSTOR).

Accidentally spelling "shear" when you intended "sheer" is a mistake.

Accidentally convicting someone for rape with a life sentence (due to bad due process) is ALSO a mistake.

There is a big difference in magnitude AND consequence.

Unless you are willing to label Aaron as just "collateral damage"?

My god, what a blatant appeal to emotion. You people complain about politicians pandering and the like, and then you say something as stupid as that. If you actually want a decent debate, it helps if you don't try frame your opponent as a sociopath.

The last sentence, while an appeal to emotion in the way it was phrased, actually made a reasonable point. The prosecution of Aaron Swatz should never have been treated like a test case to see exactly how far the prosecution could get away with.

The law should not be made by prosecuting someone to see where the boundaries of legislation lie.

Except it is, and always has been. Legislation is written by elected representatives, and then interpreted by judges when it is "tested in court". At least in the UK, we have had well meaning legislation that was universally condemned, simply because the way it was written allowed it to be interpreted in a large number of ways, some of which were very different to the original intention of the legislation. In the US, if we look at one of the most famous civil rights activists, Rosa Parks, she was seen as so successful because she was the perfect person to be used for a test of the city's segregation laws.

That said, I personally don't believe that was the case here. It seems that in many ways this prosecution was just a standard prosecution; prosecutors often ask for crazy sentences (and don't get them-, and I don't honestly believe that there was a particularly unprecedented amount of malice on the part of the prosecution.

The original party asked the Dept of Justice to drop the case. That sounds like a large amount of malice to me - they wanted to squeeze 35 years of the guy's life, even though the original "victim" decided not to go ahead with a complaint.

I thought it was only JSTOR that said that, and that MIT had not made that clear? Anyway, that wasn't really my main point. Prosecutions sometimes do define the law, that's the power of precedence.

So your ad hominem attack proves your point how?

Your response is neither relevant or useful.

Kindly go troll somewhere else.

Who decides whether this was a mistake or not? For all we know, the "blood" may be completely unrelated to the case.

Devil's advocate here. If Carmen actually agreed that Aaron's actions were not a crime, but wanted most of all to set a precedent, could that not explain her actions without malice? Maybe she was ideologically on Aaron's side, but recognized that a weak or cancelled prosecution would not yield a useful precedent. If she demonstrated a strong case and lost, it would send a message that Americans don't agree with strict enforcement of copyright in that way.

Of course this would be little solace to Aaron, as he probably would not be made aware until afterward, if ever.

I suspect that having a lost prosecution on her record would be more harmful to her own goals than helpful to the goals of any causes, so this explanation seems unlikely to me.

That falls to Occam's Razor. Prosecution is the way to conviction, so just publicly choosing not to prosecute would be a strong message.=, ad much lower cost.

Also, federal cases usually get settled in pleas, so there's less actual precedent. Going all the way to court would have been painful for him AND would have increased the odds of conviction.

"Making people "afraid" to prosecute it is the wrong answer"

No, it isn't. Prosecutors need to be held responsible for their actions.

I think those calling for her resignation want to send a more general message about prosecutorial bullying, not just copyright policy.

You do realize, that you are suggesting we do "eye for an eye" right? She decided to drive a tack with a sledge hammer, and you are calling for us to do the same? I do think she is wrong, but attempting to do the same to her makes us no better than them.

Firing a bad employee is not "the same" as sending someone to federal prison for 30 years or hounding them to suicide.

So in your view, employees should never be fired no matter how bad they screw up?

I agree she should be fired. We just need to recognize we are doing the exact same thing they are.

From Riker in TNG: "When has justice ever been as simple as a rule-book?"

"These situations seem to arise when there is a fundamental disconnect between what "the people" think and what "the system" thinks"

The system serves the people; the system's thinking should be subordinate to what the people think. Anything less is a sign that the system is broken and is immediate and desperate need of an overhaul (but that is pretty obvious at this point).

I agree especially with your last sentence. The torches-and-pitchforks crowd is missing the main point here.

However, whether or not she is "evil" is irrelevant. She clearly went after Swartz with a self-righteous zeal that was far divorced from the seriousness of the alleged crime. I don't know if someone in the US Justice Department had beef with Swartz they wanted to settle, or if they just wanted to make an example of someone, but one thing is certain and that's that until these prosecutors face actual backlash to their jobs and reputation when they go so far overboard, nothing whatsoever will change. They simply have no disincentive for this kind of irresponsible and unprofessional behavior at the moment.

Yes, it is possible she will have to be the proxy/figurehead towards which protest is directed...but if actual reform is the goal, then it's not a bad thing to examine fully what went wrong, if possible. Her office clearly has better things to do; who was the prime mover, if not her, in directing resources to this?

MIT, the state of Massachusetts, and Steve Heymann.

A young man is dead because Carmen M. Ortiz unambiguously railroaded him. Frankly the ignorance and tenor of her prosecution in this area makes me much less likely to believe that all those other people she fined and jailed were bad guys.

That is: in the one area we do know - computer science - we can see that she pursued trumped up charges. So maybe a forensic accountant would be able to explain that in her past rise to "Bostonian of the Year" she jailed some poor middle manager for making a mistake, or a legal aid guy could break down how she made some minority kid selling pot into a "mobster". Won't know till the Internet and the press does a thorough review:


Bottom line: she did not acknowledge any of Aaron's positive contributions when she decided to portray him as an evil hacker worthy of thirty five years in prison. Show her the same mercy she showed him by forcing her resignation. More, in fact, as I'm sure she'll be able to land on her feet as a high priced lobbyist. The RIAA/MPAA would love to have her.

>The RIAA/MPAA would love to have her.

She's way too toxic for business. She's got her federal pension and probably a long future in politics. Unless Obama throws her out, she's more or less set for life. Prosecutors don't get burned on stuff like this. Now if she cheated on her husband or said something bad about Jesus.

This is also further proof that you can attack leftist political activists with impunity. At his core Aaron was for liberalization of information and open government. If he was a Tea Party guy downloading PDFs from MIT to show "liberal bias" he'd be alive and have his own Fox New show and a book deal.

No one protects the left.

You're being sensational and honestly rather rude. The left has dedicated programs just as the right does. If he was a tea party guy, he would basically be fighting for the same cause: an open government. You ought to keep in mind that the tea party started from the Ron Paul movement before it was, for all intents & purposes, hijacked by the traditional right.

The right and left often come together when it comes to restraining the rights of citizens (patriot act?). Don't demonize the right and put a halo around the left, it only serves to propagate the right/left paradigm that the Americans are already trapped in. We need the right & left coming together on open government issues. I feel good when politicians such as Dennis Kucinich come together with the libertarian-wing of the Right to push for things like Audit the Fed.

Finally, I find your comment rather ironic since it was the left who put this woman into power in 2009 and God knows she is, as you say, "protected". If Obama ever does come about this (doubtful), he will have all the excuses in the book ready for her pardon. The right was vehemently opposed to just about anyone the left selected, but perhaps if the right had their way, it wouldn't have been Carmen M Ortiz in power and maybe Aaron wouldn't be dead. But that's the kinda what-if talk that's just immature at the end of the day.

>something bad about Jesus.

She works for the people. If the people don't like her saying bad things about Jesus, Muslims, Jews or minorities, she gets the can. That's a good thing.

Lots of people in the USA like Jesus. If even a fraction of that number could be mobilized over this injustice, she's gone.

drzaiusapelord (great name, made me smile in spite of myself today) I think you have your heart in the right place. I'd ask you to hopefully see that at least some libertarians/Paul supporters are pretty different from your run of the mill corporatist Republicans, in the same way that the true left like Aaron Swartz or Alan Grayson is pretty different from run of the mill drone strike/drug war Democrats like Ortiz/Obama/Holder. I'm not saying there aren't legitimate differences here, but Rand Paul or Alan Grayson is a lot more likely to publicly condemn this travesty of justice than Obama or Boehner is. This is really authoritarians vs. civil libertarians, which is more cross-cutting than one might think.

Actually a young man is dead because he killed himself.

Actually if they drained his accounts and froze his assets and promised to shove in him a prison with hardened criminals for up to 50 years, where he could face assaults, rape and abuse (more so probably than the average hardened street criminal) killing himself didn't seem like such an irrational choice.

The point remains that the prosecutor did not kill him. He killed himself. Just trying to bring down the hyperbole on this thread... Speaking of which:

In reality he would have gone to a while collar prison and would have gotten the counseling he obviously needed. (edit spelling)

This is apologism for untrammeled abuse of power. He was being threatened with 35 years in federal prison for downloading some PDFs! He would have been 61 when he got out. They would have taken away 40-50% of his life.

Sometimes it is better to live free or die. The people who need "counseling" are Ortiz, Heymann, and the inhumane who'd defend or excuse this travesty. Just following orders, blind legalism.

And the hyperbole is back. He hadn't been convicted and would never have served anything close to 35 years even if he was.

Oh, right. He wouldn't have gotten 35 years, only a felony conviction with 5-10 years in federal prison for downloading some pdfs. So hyperbolic to be enraged about this!

Get used to the hyperbole. This issue has made HN completely insane it seems.

Maybe we should be replacing prosecutors who remain technologically ignorant years after these issues come up. If her job responsibilities include prosecuting computer crime, she needs to understand the applicability of computers to crime, otherwise she's not doing her job. Being old and an appointed official is no excuse anymore.

It's not as if she's a holdover from the Reagan years. She was an early appointment by President Obama.

I'm not disagreeing here, simple asking for information: how has she demonstrated an ignorance of technology?

I know you're responding directly to the parent comment but for my part, I'll say that that's not my own accusation, just a possible speculation. Sometimes the reasons for terrible machinery to move ahead are rather banal.

I'll say for sure that a lot of the initial backing by legislators for SOPA/PIPA was just status quo informed by vague technical understanding of the issue, and not because everyone was in the pockets of the movie industry.

She has demonstrated either horrible incompetence or maliciousness.

Looking at the way the prosecution built its case, the hyperbole, misdirection, inaccuracies dealing with the technical aspects at least, I cannot but attribute at least one of the above attributes to them.

Prosecuting downloading information in violation of terms of service as an abuse under CFAA.

The 9th Circuit (the best circuit!) ruled this was bullshit in US vs. Nosal.

That sounds more like legal ignorance than technological ignorance -- which is probably worse.

Well, Boston isn't in the ninth circuit. I'm also curious how you would summarize the Nosal ruling.

It's clear that the severity of the charges were because the action was a political statement. That is why she wanted to "send a message"

Had the same action been done by a non-political individual who simply did he "because he could" there would have been a quiet, minor settlement.

I agree. This makes it all the more important that we, as a community, "send a message" by calling out her actions as unacceptable and by peacefully petitioning for her removal from office.

Does that make it better, or worse?

I don't know, but for one, the prosecutor tried to portray the action as solely having a profit motive - which is ludicrous.

I wholeheartedly agree. It's understandable that after a tragic, upsetting event like this people look for someone to blame. If you are looking for someone to blame, blame the law. Prosecutors take cases they think they can win. No prosecutor wants to lose a case. The decision to take a case is made based on the law and precedent.

Getting a DA fired solves nothing. What happens once you have achieved it? What have you accomplished? The law remains the same, and these type of cases continue to be brought.

Change is difficult. But I hope that if people really cared about this they would put as much effort as they can into changing the law, rather than trying to place the blame on a single individual - because the latter can easily result in even more misunderstandings.

Unfortunately this conflicts with the reality of Federal law in the US, where prosecutorial discretion is essentially the beginning and end of the criminal law system.

At any given time, any person and any company could be easily convicted of enough serious crimes to put them in prison for life or out of business. Prosecutors don't pick cases; they pick defendants, based on what are hopefully well-intended criteria. They then go through the extensive but essentially mechanical process of the justice system, which hopefully at least serves to shine enough daylight on the matter that prosecutor misbehavior is hard to hide.

Saying we should not pressure them to pick in a way we would prefer is to abandon the only actual influence over the system we have.

Only a person of science or other black/white thinker would assume that law and procedure was an "essentially mechanical process." I once imagined it that way too. The very first thing a law student is taught is that everything is a grey area: laws are left vague deliberately in order to be interpreted by judges; evidence and procedure are negotiable; everything is subjective. The legal framework is only that, a framework. The legal machine is far, far from deterministic. It is designed from the top down to be discretionary.

Otherwise you'd more often run into situations where you couldn't prosecute someone because a statute didn't spell out their exact actions even though in spirit they had violated it.

What happens if you're in a grey area? You spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars defending yourself, and you might be found innocent of the more serious charges, but there's a good chance you'll be convicted on one or two minor charges. You're still out the money you payed to your lawyers, and the prosecutor gets to say, "We didn't get the outcome we wanted, but the evildoer was still held to account for his crimes."

Yeah, the reality for the accused is that the system is rather black and white. Either you are not on their radar... or you are fucked. How fucked you are is really the only gradient here.

I actually agree with both of you. The system is so subjective that if you are rightly or wrongly ensnared by it, you always lose at a minimum, money. Civil cases are even more likely to occur because effectively anyone from an employee to a patent troll can play "prosecutor" and again the question is only how much it'll ultimately cost.

Well by the justice departments own logic, we should end her career to send a message to other prosecutors. After all, that's what they would do.

OK, she's a hero. Does it entitle her (or the people under her) to fuck up people's lives?

That's not the argument here. The argument is that there may be some other specific point to apply activism towards. She is the head of her office but this is clearly not the most important case at the top of her caseload. It could've been a subordinate who made the calls and had the delegated authority.

Technically, President Obama has the power to install and remove U.S. attorneys at his discretion. Should we start a petition asking him to resign, too?

I'm the author of the petition, so allow me to explain my thinking; and why I don't expect Ms. Ortiz to lose her job over this.

1. Obama appointed her, and by many metrics she is doing a good job.

2. The DOJ under Holder is anything but Liberal in it's outlook, a DOJ that's onboard with killing civilians who are American citizens without requiring even a closed hearing from a judge does not care what you think about prosecutorial overreach.

3. Using outsize threats and the power of indictment to coerce defendants into pleading out is policy, and goes well beyond an individual D.A.'s practices in a given case.

That said; the purpose of this petition is to raise embarrassing questions in a way that demands an answer.

Justice in this country should aspire to be more than "the shadow cast by the powerful upon the weak".

note: I'm aware that I should have had someone else proofread the text and that my misedit of the first paragraph is now unfixable.

FWIW I hope the petition succeeds. It won't result in a resignation but it'll at least force an answer and an examination, if nothing else

The response, "We don't comment on anything that matters to people."

"She is no stranger to being part of a disenfranchised group"

Got it. Being a member of a "disenfranchised group" and "fighting corporations" excuses anything.

Doing the right thing so many times you've lost count doesn't excuse doing the wrong thing.

And the way this was handled, it feels more wrong than right, and she certainly had some considerable say in the way it played out.

Maybe she's had plenty of opportunities to reflect on the consequences of her actions, maybe not (if it was all mob bosses and drug companies, probably not). In light of what's happened, at the least, she needs to reflect and grow from this experience.

Thanks for posting this. The rest of this thread is ready to throw someone under the bus that they know nothing about.

It doesn't matter what else she's done, we are judging her only by her actions in regards to this case.

This article is about how the Feds disable criminal defense:


I've read somewhere she's was preparing for the Whitey's case mentioned in the article.

Fire her pour encourager les autres.

If you go to court and say "I didn't mean to break the law", he says "too bad." But evidently, you think she should get leniency from us for obliviously (you allege) ruining someone's life.

Screw that.

Quinn Norton:

"It wasn't Carmen Ortiz that hounded Aaron to death, it was Steve Heymann. And the system that helped him do it: that was all of us." https://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/290204205124304896

And Tim Carmody:

"FWIW, Carmen Ortiz just runs the US Attorney's office in MA. Stephen Heymann is the Assistant US Attorney going hard after Aaron Swartz." https://twitter.com/tcarmody/status/290192055488094209

More info:

Aaron wasn’t so lucky with the JSTOR matter. The case was picked up by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann in Boston, the cybercrime prosecutor who won a record 20-year prison stretch for TJX hacker Albert Gonzalez. Heymann indicted Aaron on 13 counts of wire fraud, computer intrusion and reckless damage.

-- Wired, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/01/aaron-swartz/

In the area of computer crime, Mr. Heymann:

- Jointly brought the first federal prosecution of a juvenile computer hacker, who had electronically disabled a critical computer servicing the control tower of a regional airport.

- Supervised the prosecution of the first software pirate to be charged with free distribution of copyrighted software over the Internet.

-- http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/digitaldiscovery/biosfc.htm

Not that much public info available on the guy.

Carmen Ortiz was the person in charge of either (a) not employing people like Stephen Heymann, or (b) overseeing their activities better.

Of course, Stephen Heymann should also bear the blame. But we don't help society when we refuse to find those in charge responsible for the things they actually are responsible for.

BTW, here's her position on the case (via the NYT)[1]:

  Carmen M. Ortiz, a United States attorney, pressed on, 
  saying that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a 
  computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take 
  documents, data or dollars.”
i.e. she was in full support of the trial against Aaron.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/technology/aaron-swartz-in...

The equivalent petition for Steve Heymann: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/fire-assistant-us-...

While Cameron Ortiz' actions towards Aaron Swartz were unjust, I think that she is receiving an unduly large share of the ire, and as a result, several other agents and factors in this scenario are receiving an unduly small share. While I don't particularly want to defend her, I believe that a) justice is never served well by a lynch mob b) other actors are more deserving of blame, and by focusing on Ortiz we give them a get-out-of-jail-free card that involves throwing her under the bus.

Ortiz was prosecuting Aaron for actions that are, in fact, crimes, as defined by US law. That's her job, that's her responsibility, and 95+% of the time she is serving the public interest by performing that task. Creating just laws is not her responsibility, it is someone else's. Specifically, it is Congress' responsibility, and they fucked up big-time. They deserve dragging over the coals as much as she does, as do the interests interests who benefit from restricted access to knowledge who lobbied for the creation of these laws. If our reaction to these events is to remove Ortiz, but leave in place the laws themselves and those responsible for their creation, I would call that a failure on our part to hold responsible those who are responsible.


Intentionally separating this part.

While I do think that Ortiz is in the wrong for using bullying tactics, I do not place much blame on her for prosecuting according to an unjust law. For better or worse, that (fucking terrible) law was enacted by a democratically-elected government. I expect her to prosecute based on the laws enacted by a fair democratic process, and not based on her personal views. To do otherwise, I would consider an abuse of power.

She had faith that the laws given to her to uphold were just. In this respect, she was let down by those she depended on. While I wish she had not chosen to prosecute, I do not consider it a failing of hers that she did so. I pile far more blame on Congress than anyone, because it was their responsibility to make sure that the laws are just and fair. While several parties acted in a fashion I disagree with, they are the ones who had the greatest expectation to do otherwise.

Again, that is entirely separate from the bullying tactics she used in prosecution. Those actions are not defensible.

The truth is that every prosecutor faces too many possible cases to actually pursue, and so has to choose which ones to focus on. A prosecutor may try to be neutral, but the basic act of triage forces you to show your biases.

In this case Aaron stuck a laptop in an unlocked closet, used curl to download lots of links, and did absolutely nothing to hide his tracks because he did not think he was doing anything wrong.

She looked at the facts, and decided to press forward with charges regardless when she had more important things she could have focused on instead, and when the company whose documents were "stolen" (and never distributed) wanted to drop charges. Why?

Yes, this.

I'm really angry that bankers get to walk away from billion-dollar crimes against clients and homewoners while a prosecutor goes after easy wins on victimless crimes like this.

"did absolutely nothing to hide his tracks"

Rewriting history to fit your own narrative helps no one. He did plenty to hide his tracks:

1) when he connected the laptop to MITs network, he used a fake name (Gary Host/Grace Host) 2) when his MAC was banned by MIT, he changed it 3) he used his helmet to hide his face from a camera when he accessed MITs networking closet 4) he hid the laptop in the closet underneath a cardboard box 5) when he retrieved the laptop from the networking closet, he then went to SIPB and hid the laptop underneath a table 6) when police finally found him, he jumped off his bike and ran from police

He did all of that.. and you're telling me he did not think anything he was doing was wrong? That's a little far fetched.

How about you stop rewriting things, and just tell them how they are?


... and just how or why does all of that justify 35 yrs in jail and 10^6 USD in fines?

I never said it did. We can debate about whether he's innocent or not; what sentence he deserves (if he's guilty); what tactics are ok by the justice dept; whether his activities should be illegal at all; etc, etc, etc.

But the things we do know about what happened, that are not an individuals opinion... we don't get to change those just to make it more convenient to create the narrative we want.

> In this case Aaron stuck a laptop in an unlocked closet, used curl to download lots of links, and did absolutely nothing to hide his tracks because he did not think he was doing anything wrong

Did he think he was doing anything illegal?

There are several supposedly built-in safeguards to protect our country's citizens from abuse, inflicted by the government.

One is the law. The idea that representatives that people elect will end up creating just laws.

If that fucks up, then ...

Prosecutors who prosecute on behalf of the state (as in country here, US, not necessarily a specific state) can chose not to prosecute a case. If they have a teenager who smuggled a little pot from Mexico or they have a white collar embezzlement case of $10M, the hope is that they will go after the embezzlement case.

If this gets fucked up, (as did in this case), then...

It comes to the jury of peers. They jury can choose not to convict.

So it is not as mechanistic as "it is the law, the law was broken, therefore in every instance someone should be punished according to that law". And to fix something, the only way to do it is to overturn the law. There are actually multiple places to put the fix in.

> I do not place much blame on her for prosecuting according to an unjust law.

I do place the blame on her for choosing this case over another case. That is the real issue here. Forget perhaps that as techies many of us personally feel more connected to Aaron. Forget about that for a second. Look at it from the tax payer's point of view. We bank-roll the prosecution of these cases. Is picking this case from the pile and saying "Pedal to the metal with this one. We'll fucking bury this kid" make sense vs picking other cases.

But you see, this case was picked. And I want to know why. And I want to know why was the prosecution so keen and so fervent in this case. This kind of passion does _NOT_ come randomly and I also doubt they have a random-spin-the-wheel-next-case-picker. These decisions, ( I am guessing here) are heavily politically motivated. At least as a tax payer I am owed an explanation as to how the process works.

>Creating just laws is not her responsibility, it is someone else's.

She has neither the power nor responsibility to legislate, that's true enough. She definitely has discretion in her office as a prosecutor, though, as executive offices tend to have. That discretion is supposed to be one of the things that makes a system with separated powers more resistant to abuse, and she and every other prosecutor are absolutely obligated to use it responsibly.

> by focusing on Ortiz we give them a get-out-of-jail-free card that involves throwing her under the bus.

Many prosecutors seem to think that making high profile examples out of someone serves a deterring purpose. Given what's currently known about the prosecution in the case, I can only assume Ortiz and those who worked for her shared that view. To the extent that it's true, I'd say it's more than fair that the careers of those in question could serve as a bright and burning example of that principle.

And that's far kinder than they've been: using the powers society granted them, they threatened to effectively end Swartz' life with 50 years in prison, and may have played a direct role in his actual death. The only discussion occurring here is about whether they would continue their careers ... not whether they'd continue to have everyday freedom of not being incarcerated.

I expect her to prosecute based on the laws enacted by a fair democratic process, and not based on her personal views. To do otherwise, I would consider an abuse of power.

By this criterion, every prosecutor abuses their power. No prosecutor has the time or the resources to prosecute every violation of every law under their jurisdiction. They have to pick and choose, and that means they bear responsibility for how they pick and choose.

Sure, but a DA should understand the law both in word and spirit. The job of the government ultimately is to protect citizens, not prosecute them for benefit.

other actors are more deserving of blame, and by focusing on Ortiz we give them a get-out-of-jail-free card

I disagree. Calling for Ortiz to be removed in no way prevents us from also calling for whatever other actions we think are necessary.

> Ortiz was prosecuting Aaron for actions that are, in fact, crimes, as defined by US law.

The law is not black and white, and is way more intricate than I believe you and I can fathom. From what I've read this was not a black and white case. So what it does it set a precedent (just as Ortiz did when she decided to push this to the absolute maximum) for others that this behavior is not acceptable.

"Ortiz was prosecuting Aaron for actions that are, in fact, crimes, as defined by US law."

Violating web site terms of service is a civil issue, not criminal. Ortiz chose to create new law principles that violating not just explicit but implicit terms of service, such as by using an email provider that Ortiz does not approve of, should be considered a serious federal crime and prosecuted as such.

The argument that she was just following the law and prosecuting defined crimes is complete bunk.

If anyone should go down first its Steve Heymann who also led up the ridiculous 40 year sentence against soupnazi.

from wired:

'The FBI investigated that hack, but in the end no charges were filed. Aaron wasn’t so lucky with the JSTOR matter. The case was picked up by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann in Boston, the cybercrime prosecutor who won a record 20-year prison stretch for TJX hacker Albert Gonzalez. Heymann indicted Aaron on 13 counts of wire fraud, computer intrusion and reckless damage. The case has been wending through pre-trial motions for 18 months, and was set for jury trial on April 1.'


And re: soupnazi, throwing a hacker (even a hacker who was actually criminal) in with violent offenders because he pissed off the wrong people is fucked:

"After his sentencing, Gonzalez was transferred from Wyatt to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn (before ultimately ending up in a prison in Michigan). Situated between a loud stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Gowanus Bay, M.D.C. is brutal, even for a prison. Populated by hardened offenders, it is among the last places a nonviolent government informant would want to be. “The place is terrible,” Agent Michael said. “But you know what? When you burn both ends of the candle, that’s what you get.” Even Gonzalez was impressed by the government’s indifference to his comfort. He says he always knew it would stick it to him somehow, “but I never thought it would be this badly.”"


To the people suggesting pinning the blame on a person is ignoring the systemic issues, let me point out this: you can do both. We can both recognize that the system is broken while still recognizing that we need to make it plainly obvious how disappointed we are in the people running it.

Making a petition isn't a lynch mob. These people are public servants, and ostensibly serve at the pleasure of the public. So when tragedies like this happen we need to make it extremely clear how displeased we are.

Yes. I'm perfectly happy to hate the player and the game.

Indeed. Yes, the system is what it is, but prosecutors have huge discretion over who they attack. "The system" is just a machine, like a gun, and she picked that gun up, aimed it at Aaron, and pulled the trigger.

I don't understand the apologists' response to this.

"She's just doing her job" "She was only acting in what she believed to be right" "She's just good at her job."

Do I have to remind everyone here that we're actually just humans living amongst one another and the overarching rule of thumb is: Do No Harm?

Seriously. When it's someone in the private sector doing wrong, everyone wants to come out and demonize the person, but as soon as it's a person in the public office, it's as if we immediately start finding excuses for them.

Wake up. Someone's life was demolished because it seemed like a good case to pick up. "Stealing is illegal," she said. Well ok, so is marijuana possession, jay-walking, and smoking inside restaurants. I'm not too sure I can get behind any of these _morally_. Victimless crimes don't need a federal prosecutor coming in and slamming 30+ years at a person. It's just not right.

Like many others here, I want to know why she chose this case. Aaron single-handedly put an end to SOPA by gathering huge amounts of support. Imagine if he could have went on? Imagine the impact he could have made on this world? Does the government fear this? Does silencing him just as they are doing the Wikileaks founder ensure their own sick agenda?

Before we rush to Carmen Ortiz's defense, why don't we ask these questions, yea? Because it's not like we can't find another federal prosecutor -- perhaps one who has more moral integrity than to sentence a 26 yr old GENIUS to a life in prison.

Don't blindly get the torches and pitchforks to treat a symtome, find the root problem and try to change the copyright/science/education/access system at the core.

The fact is, there are real people involved in a specific set of events that contributed to the tragedy today. Those people are members of our government. Holding government officials accountable to the people for their actions is a fundamental tenet of the United States' constitution.

The academic publishing racket was but a catalyst. That a possibly-effective protest against the status quo will get you persecuted into oblivion is the meta issue. The system is set up to deflect and even feed upon endless amounts of verbal criticism. But step out of line and do something beyond mere talk, and you'll see how quick the cryptofascism shows itself from the government and even many of your "peers".

(RIP Aaron - All progress depends on the unreasonable man.)

Some heads rolling could set things into motion. No doubt this Carmen Ortiz will find a cushy job in the private sector from the ones lobbying her to do this, if she's fired.

Lack of accountability misaligns government officials' incentives. This is arguably a more important problem than copyright.

Arguably it makes the system less effective by adding a disincentive to enforcing the law in that specific fashion. There's also the risk that, to paraphrase kurt vonnegut, the moral will be to not go after people with friends.

Don't unnecessarily abstract someone's actions in order to reduce their culpability. This is not an impressionable child. "Society" is not to blame.

JSTOR and friends ensured harsh charges are brought against him and then pretended they are not interested in prosecution.

What is the root of the problem? And more importantly, who do I trust to tell me what the root of the problem is.

This is such an obvious move that I signed, and shared on social media at https://plus.google.com/114613808538621741268/posts/E3wWNB2s... and on FB. (Ironically my previous post was a request for people not to share so many political links.)

Be careful. One does not really want to send the message to people contemplating suicide that if they complete the suicide that their 'enemies' will loose their job.

Suicide is a terrible short term solution. There are better solutions.

I'm no expert on the US way of things, but wasn't this prosecutor just doing her job according to the law, or as directed by government policy? She not a vigilante, or is that effectively the case in the US? Surely you guys need to got after the law or government in some way, not harass this woman who was doing what she was paid to do.

Ok, so you win, she gets fired. Another will simply replace her. You need to get the laws sorted out.

Get the laws changed. Or get laws to protect people. Do it in his name. I cant think of a better legacy. (Well, unless I am completely and utterly wrong about how US law stuff works. In which case, I hold up my ignorant hands)

US Federal prosecutors are pretty much Judge Dredd. The law gives them broad discretion and wide political independence; so much so that the broad and vague on-paper criminal law is irrelevant in practice. 95% of cases end in a plea bargain and federal juries have a conviction rate in the 80s.


Petition to make the required changes to the law, not to remove a human cog from the machine.

How about both? The cog is broken, as is the greater machine. Let's fix both.

Is the ball already rolling on a petition to have these particular laws changed?

You can't petition the White House to change laws...

Why not? Please think twice before giving the govt 101 separation of powers answer. I hope we all know that the President isn't a monarch.

A petition like this will attract the right attention to the problem with the side effect of removing a bad apple from the basket.

For her misunderstanding of the word theft it nothing else

Of course, I assume nobody wants Ms. Ortiz to spin into deep guilt-driven depression for doing what she believed was right. This kind of emotional blackmail is probably not helping anyone or anything, at least not this soon after the events when emotions are still looming high and, more importantly, nobody actually understands the exact circumstances of a person's... well... personal predicament that lead to certain actions....

Your evidence that she was doing "what she believed was right" rather than "what she believed would enhance her career" would be?

13 Felony counts? I can only express outrage and spew vitriol towards U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. She so desperately wants to put her name out front hoping to win the next Governor's election and she did just that, but unfortunately, at the expense of beloved Aaron Swartz's life.

MIT & JSTOR refused to press charges; potentially, misdemeanors for downloading documents for free public access & possibly violating a TOC. But Scott Garland, the other prosecutor (lap doggy), and Carmen Ortiz pursued Aaron by digging deep into their own interpretation of the law to manufacture new and more serious charges against him. Carmen Ortiz and her minions continued to badger Swartz by harassing this brilliant & heroic young man until his death by suicide. The government should have hired him rather than make him a criminal.

I wonder which murderer, child abuser or rapist the DOJ planned to spring from the overcrowded prison to make room for an open-source activist. This is just so wrong on many levels!

May you R.I.P. Aaron Swartz.

I found on the Internet that Steven P Heymann was honored at an awards ceremony by Eric Holder. Prior to the year 2010, there's not that much on Heymann from a cursory search. But he was moving up by busting cybercrime in concert with Secret Service Agents and FBI. The power-boys club. And certainly enjoying it. I found evidence of intent to misrepresent Aaron Swartz when they referenced him as "not attending MIT but enrolled in an unrelated Boston college." They deliberately concealed the fact that Aaron was at Harvard, to make sure that he was not viewed in any way favorably in this report of their indictment. I read the indictment and it makes every minor step into a hyped depiction of criminality. That is a legal tactic and technique, designed to persuade towards the impression of guilt.

Strategies are a collaborative effort in law enforcement. While I do not know much about these LE agents, I do know that they intended to destroy him, exploit his history of depression (which was common knowledge and surely part of a file work-up) and put him in Federal prison at age 26 and not able to be released until he was 76 years old. As I stated elsewhere, in many states, murders and pedophiles do not face that scope of incarceration. This was more of a targeting than a criminal prosecution. They has just come off a highly awarded prosecution and unfortunately Aaron was next in line for them to reap more awards in a ceremony. I am so sad this young man was overwhelmed by the horror of the circumstances. I hope there is ultimately a WIKI each for Steven P. Heymann and his Director, Carmen Ortiz, so that their impact on the life of Aaron Swartz in the name of "justice" stands as the award they get from the public.

In effect. Aaron Swartz was given the death penalty for being a freedom fighter. His love of freedom was expressed in radical creativity and breaking down artificial barriers. Who could have known the draconeon measures that were awaiting him?

This is not the first time US Attorney Carmen Ortiz has wronged innocent American Citizens. I read on the Internet a case of an Innocent Federal Employee who worked for US Customs in Boston his EEOC case was tarnished as Prosecutors in Boston concealed from the Federal Judge the Employees Right-to-Sue which is a Civil Rights Case under Tile VII of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964. Carmen Ortiz failed to see that an innocent family has been damaged by an OVERREACHING PROSECUTION who hide Civil Rights documents from a Federal Judge. USA Ortiz has done this to innocent Americans to get a Political Stand.

The zeal with which Carmen Ortiz showed in prosecuting the case against Aaron Swartz shows a criminal lack of discernment on the prosecutor's part which directly led to Mr. Swartz death.

The prosecutor should be removed as judgement (or lack thereof) has resulted in a tragic miscarriage of justice for the defendant.

The defendant was not a hardened criminal, but he was treated as if he was.

The case involved no violence, breaking in, no drugs, no profit.

The employing of such heavy-handed techniques that the defendant would prefer to end his life rather than face whatever punishment the prosecutor was proffering was entirely inappropriate.

The crime was one of accessing JSTORs files which, since the files are locked behind a paywall, contain information which JSTOR was NOT involved in creating, the legality of JSTOR ownership is questionable.

This is a case of prosecutorial over-reach. Carmen Ortiz is incompetent at best or malevolent at worst.

Let such individuals find employment in other professions where discernement or judgement are not required.

All of you who want to minimize what Aaron Schwartz did and lead a pitchfork mob against a prosecutor are misguided little spinsters. Lest you forget that he was caught on security cameras breaking into the a server room with a bike helmet covering his face. He knew he was breaking the law. He was caught. The heroic part of his action was the very fact that he knew he was breaking the law and still did it in the name of free access to knowledge. Anybody who says that he killed himself because of prosecutorial overreach it taking away from the significance of his action. No, he was being prosecuted because he committed a crime. He committed a crime because he did not agree with the law. The problem is the law, not the person enforcing the law. And if any of you had the capability to have an independent thought not shaped by emotion or group-think you would realize this.

Carmen Ortiz has set back this country's ability to compete in the global marketplace by relentless pursuing one of the great innovator and job creators to the point that he took his own life.

She has not served her country, she has harmed it, and you have a duty to remove her from office so that she does not ruin more lives.

Her pursuit of this case shows that she has no understanding of the the roll technology and information play in the transformation of our economy, and it also shows that she lacks compassion.

The world will feel the loss of Aaron Swartz for many years as his talent was not easily replaced. If you fire Carmen Ortiz tomorrow, I can assure you, she will not be missed.

Someone who is this abusive as a prosecutor is probably equally abusive as a supervisor. From now until her term as prosecutor ends, I will get up every morning and ask myself: "What have I done to help get Carmen Ortiz removed from office today?"

Where's the petition to require free publication and distribution of federally funded academic research? That was the point of that particular exercise in civil disobedience in the first place. What a disappointment--it's like firing a cop for putting Martin Luther King in jail without ever addressing racism.

No, it's like firing a US district attorney for deciding to put Martin Luther King in jail. And you can do more than one action.

It serves no one to make a single prosecutor the scapegoat for a whole system and a whole set of bad laws that need to be changed. There are a thousand prosecutors who are no better just waiting to take that job.

We're going after Ortiz because we think it will satisfy our outrage and grief. That is exactly what I am worried about. I understand wanting to put a face on a tragedy like this, but we should be smarter than this.

>It serves no one to make a single prosecutor the scapegoat for a whole system and a whole set of bad laws that need to be changed.

It sends a message that we are not satisfied with the way she ran her office.

>There are a thousand prosecutors who are no better just waiting to take that job.

Then they better learn from Ortiz's failure or be removed by the same process. Eventually someone will figure out that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

>We're going after Ortiz because we think it will satisfy our outrage and grief.

No, I'm upset with Ortiz because this should not have happened. Absolutely no legitimate reason for them to pursue this if JSTOR has no problem.

If you're removing anyone, remove Holder. Ortiz is just a fall guy. The entire DOJ is run this way, that's why Ortiz got the job in the first place. If Ortiz gets the sack, it will be as apologetically as possible, and her successor will be instructed to do the same damn things if not worse.

If the Feds think our outrage will be satisfied by sacrificing one prosecutor, that's all they will do, and they will do it gladly, and that will be the end of that. They will sacrifice their pawn and checkmate us.

Interesting Read: "Bostonian of the Year: Carmen Ortiz"


Also interesting is that she's apparently a nymphomaniac who believes her "tit-job" is the best.


I signed this petition. It is the first Whitehouse petition I've ever signed.

I think its an oversimplification to rest all of the blame for Swartz's death on his prosecutor.

However, unnecessary, overzealous prosecution is wrong, and it has consequences - things like this are going to happen when you push people to the edge just because you can.

If this petition receives enough signatures it will force the White House to consider the issue. I do not expect them to remove Carmen Ortiz, but I do expect them to address the reality of overzealous prosecution. It is worth taking a few seconds to ask them to do that.

The petition has already reached 1,000 signers. 1/25th of the number needed to expect a response.

This destructive person needs to be removed from office. Her illegal prosecution and harassment of Aaron Swartz is disgusting. She and the goons at the Justice Department bear the guilt for his demise. Despite this, his memory and mission live on.

This isn't right. She probably were just doing her job. Someone dies doesn't make what he/she is doing absolutely right and others' wrong. Don't let the condolences for Aaron clouds your judgment.

Another U.S. Attorney out of control. Eric Holder needs to have a serious come to constitutionality talk with all the U.S. attorneys, after he gets rid of this one.

Another example of our "betters" knowing what's best for us. What a shame this brilliant young mans life is over because Carmen wants to be governor. Sickening.

Carmen Ortiz should not only be fired; she should be prosecuted for negligence and wrongdoing on pursuing a non-proportional sentence. Specially, when it is well known that she didn´t do anything to prosecute the banksters of the 2007-2009 crises.

Loos like Ortiz considers justice is better served prosecuting a young genius committing a “misdemeanor” compared to the banker’s assault to its client’s funds and trust.

I only new Aaron from what I occasionally read online, however his death saddens me and the reason of his death makes my blood boil. This is a wake up call for us all to act, this is the least we can do. I am a member of a few secluded communities and I will personally see to bringing as many signatures as I can to this petition and the one to Posthumously Pardon Aaron Swartz.

Attacking a person's perceived "enemies" post tragedy is a terrible idea sending the wrong message to those with suicidal thoughts.

Her draconian bullying of Aaron Swartz led to his death. He positive contributions to the world vastly outweigh hers. Her actions are morally unacceptable. Her actions are unworthy of America and the State of Massachusetts. She is a monument to the suppression of freedom. She is a monster. She must step down or be fired.

Rather than forming a lynch mob against the prosecutor let's consider working on a petition more along the lines of this one:

"Posthumously Pardon Aaron Swartz"


I see the Internet lynch mob in full effect today with this. I would love to know the percentage of people signing this who only have read a couple HN articles for the first time today about this person and have no more than a passing knowledge of Ortizs' career than a Wikipedia summary.

Schwarz downloaded documents illegally and should have been charged, but he is not the conspirator and traitor she made him out to be. In no case, should he have faced a possible 35 years in jail.

Ortiz, not Aaron, is an affront to liberalism and decency and does not deserve high office in this land.

It's unfortunate that DA offices didn't attempted to prosecute those that have contributed to the tanking of the economy but I suppose it's alot easier to go after those that do not have a army of attorneys and probably do not regularly put down cold hard cash in elections.

Anyone who chooses to prosecute someone over technical issues ought to educate themselves about that technology. Fire her. Better yet, try her for misuse of her authority, abuseof her authority and incompetence.

I agree with the sentiment. I understand the anger and powerlessness. However, we should all take a moment before posting poorly-written petitions and signing them. Decisions made in anger rarely accomplish much.

This person made errors in judgement. Maybe they came from her poor understanding of technology, maybe not. But what's clear is that the petition author has equally limited understanding of legal matters. Don't do what she did. Be the better person.

Go about this the proper way. If you truly feel that she did something wrong, then consult with a lawyer and decide what can be done. Maybe legal action can be taken to have her sanctioned. Maybe she can be educated. I don't know. And neither do you. So instead of -- essentially -- calling for her to be hanged, go about this the proper way.

A 30 year sentence would not be the end of his life, he would have went to a low level prison and probably have been release early on parole, it didnt have to end like this but he was too troubled, very sad

Original Stephen Heymann DOX was taken down by Pastebin (why would they do that?). SO here's another, albeit less info...


This seems a relatively common modus operandi. The history reminds me a lot to the Nancy Black case.


Ortiz and Heymann are just Pharisees for strict observance, bullying and abusing of the written law with a huge disconnect with the society and technology.

I am naive about this case. If one particular prosecutor had it so badly against him, could he not appeal at the higher level after this decision?

THere are rapist and murderers that get smaller sentences than Aaron Swartz. Priorities are screwed up Ms. Ortiz.

the petition now needs 100k signatures, sign it here: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-stat...

Another example of a rogue prosecutor ignoring the rights of Victims to further their own careers.


The Obama administration is a failure and continues to increase the deficit of democracy. At least if you will not prosecute your owners on Wallstreet at least let tiny evidence show that you can act like you are not a fool.

If the true global public could be the judge than you would be recognized as a terrorist

Carmen Ortiz has blood on her hands for causing the death of Aaron Swartz.

She needs to be removed. There was no proportionality to he actions.

Signed. It'll hit 25k before the day's out, I bet.

But it needs to hit 311 million.

Not sure if it's just me, but when I checked the petition about an hour ago, when I woke up, there were just over 20K signers, now I check and the number has gone down to 19,879.

The same thing must have happened to me. I was just coming here to see if anyone commented on the count decreasing.

Nevermind, i see i was reading the wrong side of the numbers.

Disgraceful for what you have done to Aaron Swartz

isn't what Mme. Ortiz did (over-reaching prosecution) a form of stealing also...?

What do you call a supposed "good guy" who breaks the law?

Carmen Ortiz should be disbarred.


Zero percent chance of this happening:

- She did her job, which is to enforce the laws as they are written.

- She is very good at doing that job.

- You will not get her fired on the basis of enforcing a law on the books where the law has not been found unconstitutional nor even had its constitutionality seriously questioned.

You want a petition that might have some value? Petition the white house to change the laws or to direct the DOJ not to enforce the law. Until either of those happens, federal prosecutors are ethically bound to continue prosecuting these cases.

None of this has any bearing on the pre-trial tactics that are being used with increasing abandon by the DOJ. Specifically, they seek to prevent defendants from having their day in court by making any defence ruinously expensive. An even nastier version of this tactic involves freezing a defendent's assets, making the retention of competent representation a fiscal impossibility. Having effectivly stripped a target of their Constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair and open trial, they credibly threaten their victims with insanely onerous penalties that can be avoided only by accepting plea bargains that involve consent to charges that may well be baseless. In other words, they've successfully undermined one of the nation's key checks on abuse of government power.

From what's emerged today, it's clear that the case against Aaron was weak at best, and highly unlikely to lead to conviction in open court against capable defenders. "Bullying" is an understatement. What's going on is an outright assault on the very core of restrained government. Whether this power is being used for good or ill is besides the point. Like extrajudicial killings, the power itself has been placed outside prosecutor's reach for a reason. They have taken it anyway, and they've done so because no impedement has been there to stop them. At the same time, they've depended in security through obscurity. A general lack of awareness as to how abusive and out of control they've become has enabled the rot we're seeing now.

In this case, we see the importance of open access to jury trials in that they prevent the government from harming its own legitimacy. Given how unrestrained the DOJ has become, it was only a matter of time before they suffered a high-profile screwup. And while Ortiz may simply have been the one unlucky enough to own it, she is very much a part of the problem. Unlike Aaron, she is not an unfortunate innocent caught in the wrong time at the wrong place. To the contrary, she is the fox sneaking into the henhouse on the night that a new watchdog is sleeping beneath it.

I don't think this is really about it practically happening. (I mean I'd love for it to, but it's a pipe dream).

This is symbolic. It's our way of saying "fuck you" to the people responsible. The more people that sign this, the bigger the metaphorical middle finger.

Look, realistically, as concerned citizens there isn't a lot we can do here, but one thing we can do is publicly shame the people responsible for this and bring visibility to something that would otherwise go unacknowledged.

Her political ambitions, professional contact network, and post-DoJ employment prospects could be destroyed, costing her millions of dollars in income. Same for Heymann.

Knowing that hundreds of thousands of people in an industry they interface with would fuck them over given a chance must be a bit depressing.

I feel like this petition could have been written so much more persuasively. Regardless, I signed.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact